Tenkaippin Hawaii (天下一品)
Tenkaippin Hawaii is the local outlet of a Japanese ramen chain. It has actually been on my short list of places to revisit, but because it's usually so crowded, I haven't really had a chance to eat here again. Last night, I just happened to be in Waikiki on a shopping trip with a friend when we decided to stop by.
It was about 9:30 pm and I was so happy that the shop was actually empty. We proceeded to the table in the far corner and just as we sat down, a couple entered the shop. A few minutes later, more than half the tables in the small shop were occupied.
As I looked over the menu, I decided to snap a picture of the various condiments that were on a small tray on each table. Some of the more common items were black pepper, shoyu, hot chilli oil and vinegar. I didn't see any shichimi togarashi, but there was a container, in the middle of the picture, that was filled with chopped garlic and chillies!
I ended up selecting the "C" set (US$10.25) from the combination menu. The price quoted is the price with assari ramen. Also available in the "C" set were the kotteri ramen (US$10.45) or miso ramen (US$10.65).
The assari ramen consists of a bowl of ramen noodles, topped with one piece of homemade char siu, some menma (bamboo shoots), and lots of chopped green onions. Over all of this is the piping hot chicken stock and shoyu based broth. The broth, which also seemed quite peppery, was very delicious. It was light and full of rich chicken flavor. The homemade char siu, on the other hand, was a disapointment. It was dry, tough and fatty. It lacked that melt-in-your-mouth quality which makes Japanese-style char siu so different from Chinese-style char siu. The noodles, while cooked in the traditional Japanese style, firm and with quite a bit of bite, just didn't do it for me. Maybe it was the texture of the noodles. Disappointing.
Included in set "C" were 3 pieces fried chicken.
The chicken took more than 10 minutes to be delivered to my table! In fact, by the time it arrived, I was almost finished with my bowl of ramen. Alongside the chicken was a mound of chopped cabbage that was topped with some vinegar-based dressing. Although well-fried, crispy and still juicy, the fried chicken lacked any real flavor. There was just the slightly hint of garlic flavor.
Meanwhile, my friend ordered the "B" set (US$9.65) from the combination menu. This time, it was with miso ramen. Also available in the "B" set were the kotteri ramen (US$9.45) and assari ramen (US$9.25).
Previously, I had tried the miso ramen, but I took a few sips of the broth here so that I could comment on it. Using chicken stock as a base, this one had a nice amount of miso added to the broth. In fact, I would have to say that the amount of miso was just right -- not too overpowering. The miso ramen came topped with lots of mung bean sprouts and green onions.
Included in this set meal were 3 pieces gyoza.
Gyoza are Japanese dumplings that are normally filled with pork, garlic, cabbage, ginger and green onions. These were nicely sized and seemed to have been cooked using the traditional steam-frying method. I tried these on an earlier visit, and felt that something was missing. These weren't as flavorful as they could have been.
After I finished my meal, I asked myself if I really made a wise choice by coming here. Although the ramen broth was delicious and well-flavored, it couldn't hide the fact that the noodles weren't as good as I was expecting. The gyoza was just so-so and the fried chicken was almost flavorless. For the same price, I can think of many ramen shops within a mile of this place that would have left me feeling more satisfied.
2132 Kalakaua Avenue